It is 8:35 a.m. I am in 21F – window seat for those “in the know” – directly adjacent to Little Ron.
Little Ron is cute – chocolate brown eyes, tight little corn rows, the Toys ‘R’ Us wife-beater we’ve all pondered purchasing, not to mention the sagging 501’s you just know will become gravity-reduced when he transcends puberty, and shoes that light up. Little Ron is two-and-a-half years old and a contender for the loudest and most enduring cry ever promulgated upon a five-hour domestic flight.
Just past 9 a.m. The child’s parents now have grimaces resembling those commonly seen in hospital enema rooms and there is a faint fecal smell coming from Ron’s nether regions. 20 E has twice turned around to glare, his raised eyebrow and descended lower lip silently screaming “ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?” Little Ron smirks and shoots for broke on the decibels.
9:45 The actual level of bellowing breached by Lil’ R goes unrecorded, although two grey-haired domestic partners in Row 13 physically pop up like Whack-A-Mole rodents and make a rather dramatic display of pulling out their hearing aids. A mother from row 17 has strolled back with a clenched fist and offers two Nyquil to LR’s mother. She refuses the offer and tilts her head south as the woman just sort of stands above her, hand still outstretched, begging in a way that only desperate homeless men understand. A stewardess strolls by to offer a sympathetic smile, to which Ronnie’s mother shrugs her shoulders as Lil’ Ron reaches for something Pavarotti-esque.
It is 10:30 in the morning and there is a running dialogue permeating the cabin. Pharmaceutical phrases abound – Prozac, Valium, Nitrous, and something violently alcoholic are mentioned – along with shotgun and a strong right hook, followed by some not-so-subtle chuckling. Just off the wing, a bird zooms past and, amongst the various pained passengers, there is a building theory that Ron has summoned forth a pterodactyl mating call.
Halfway over one of the Southern States, Ronnie’s shrill screams have reached a religious zenith. Passengers invoke “JESUS CHRIST” and “OH MY GOD” with reckless abandon and it’s possible Row 25 is hatching a plan to spike the baby bottle.
Four hours in, our stewardess – clearly an independent Avon representative and carting around 75% of the company’s products on her face – began systematically checking the plane’s windows, presumably for cracks. The little shit’s mother is now practically suffocating the kid, an act which infuriates the boy and causes the screams to break into a sort of bad high-school band rhythm. A long line has developed near the first-class restrooms – LR is closer to the rear of the plane – and at least two passengers have begun searching for parachutes. Like some bad improv act, several cabin members compete for the best analogy.
“He’s like a school fire alarm on crack.”
“No, it’s like holding an ambulance against your skull.”
“He sounds like a wounded moose.”
…and so on, until the group breaks out in laughter and declares a winner when a rotund man exits the lavoratory and exclaims, “It’s the sound that kid would make if he had to do to me, what I just did in there!”
It is 1 p.m. and the Captain has just asked the cabin to prepare for landing. Tray tables and seats ascend into upright position. Frenetic passengers gather their belongings and hurl relieved sighs. Little Ron is still screaming, although his voice now sounds like it’s been scraped on a cheese greater and there is that post-game football coach thing coming on. A Ricola wouldn’t hurt.
1:30. The aisles are full. Beneath sweat-soaked shirts and a smelly diaper, Ron’s mother and father make quiet apologies. The child is curled up against his mother’s breast, his half-mast eyes indicating sleep is imminent. The moment is my crack, my dark chocolate, irresistible. As the final passengers file out, I smile at the mother, ask permission to lean-in, tilt my head lovingly towards the boy, scrunch my lips close to his tiny ear, and scream, “WAKE UP, RON!” As I exit, a stewardess gives me a thumbs up and a smile. Behind me, I hear Ron start to cry. As I reach the gate, fellow passengers tote wide grins and applaud.